APPENDIX A: CHILD LABOR DATA METHODOLOGY
The purpose of this addendum is to describe the methods for collecting child labor data and discuss the challenges of collecting accurate estimates on working children. Presently, there is no internationally endorsed definition of working children, or universally prescribed methodology for collecting data on child labor. The lack of concepts and methods for collecting child labor data has made it difficult to obtain reliable statistics on working children.
Statistics from the individual country profiles presented in this report are taken from various sources. These sources include estimates from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international agencies, and government household surveys. In some instances, a range of statistics on the extent of working children may be given for a single country to reflect the varying degrees of measurement within a country. The following discussion seeks to introduce the reader to the challenges in constructing child labor statistics and describe the existing methods for collecting child labor data.
A. Child Labor Definitions & Concepts
Definitions of what constitutes a “child” and what classifies “labor” vary from one country to another. As a result, how a country chooses to construct a child labor statistic greatly influences the estimates of working children as well as the comparability of figures across countries. Although not a comprehensive list, the reader should consider the following key concepts associated with measuring child labor that may give rise to disparities in definitions and estimates of working children.
1. Child Labor vs. Child Work
Statistics on the labor force activity of children are often reported as a single estimate, and do not distinguish between “child labor” and “child work.”1970 It is important to differentiate between these two concepts because not all work performed by children is considered child labor. Child work is not considered to be harmful to or exploitative of children.1971 It can include performing light work after school, household chores, or legitimate apprenticeship programs. Work that is considered child labor prevents children from attending and participating effectively in school or is performed by children under hazardous conditions that place their healthy physical, intellectual or moral development at risk.1972
2. Economically Active Children
The primary vehicle for gathering information on working children is through household surveys such as national census or labor force surveys. Data collected on child labor from household surveys are generally based on the definition of the “economically active population”. The concept of the economically active population was adopted by the Thirteenth International Conference on Labor Statisticians in 1982, and is defined as:
All persons of either sex who furnish the supply of labor for the production of economic goods and services as defined by the United Nations systems of national accounts and balances during a specified time-reference period. According to these systems the production of economic goods and services includes all production and processing of primary products whether for the market, for barter or for own consumption, the production of all other goods and services for the market and, in the case of households which produce such goods and services for the market and the corresponding production for own consumption.1973
There are several limitations to using this definition of the economically active population when measuring child labor. According to this definition, persons in “paid” or “unpaid”1974 employment, military personnel, and the unemployed1975 are included in the economically active population. For children working in informal work settings, non-economic activities, and “hidden” forms of work, household surveys using the definition of the economically active population to measure labor force activity do not capture the full extent of child labor, and are therefore likely to yield underestimates of the number of child laborers. This is particularly true for collecting gender-sensitive data on child labor, since most girls engage in unpaid, domestic work activities in comparison to boys.1976
3. Formal vs. Informal Sector
Estimates of child labor are often based on the number of children working in the “formal sector” as opposed to the “informal sector”. Because businesses in the informal sector are not usually included in official statistics,1977 children working in informal enterprises are not counted in labor force activity rates. Informal sector employment can consist of unpaid family workers, work with unregistered businesses, or establishments where there are less than five or 10 people working.1978
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has characterized the informal sector to be largely unregulated, and not controlled by the framework of law, where as the formal sector is regulated by the government and subject to labor legislation.1979 A more precise account of the informal sector by the ILO suggests “these units typically operate at a low level of organization, with little or no division between labor and capital as factors of production and on a small scale.”1980 Furthermore, where labor relations exist, interactions are not based on contracts or formal arrangements; rather they are grounded on casual employment, kinship, and personal or social relations.1981 Because employers in the informal sector are not accountable for complying with occupational safety measures, it is likely that children who work in “hazardous” or “ultra- hazardous” settings may run the risk of injury without any social protections. For this reason, households may be reluctant to indicate work by children in the informal sector, which can increase the probability of underreporting.
4. Hidden and Worst Forms of Child Labor
Another factor that results in the underreporting in child labor data is the number of children who are working in “hidden” or illegal sectors of the economy. It is very difficult to be able to enumerate children who are trafficked, forced to work as debt laborers or prostitutes, or recruited into armed conflict by using traditional government census or household surveys. As a result, statistics on working children usually do not include the worst forms of child labor, and this undercounts the true number of child laborers.1982
B. Survey Methodology and Child Labor
The previous section described the complexities associated with defining and accurately measuring child labor. These challenges make the process of collecting accurate estimates on working children difficult. This section will address issues important to measuring the extent and magnitude of child labor.
For the majority of countries, household surveys such as labor force and census surveys are the primary instruments for measuring child labor.1983 The use of large-scale probability sampling in survey research allows estimates to be generalized to a broader target population.
The following discussion explains survey methodology issues relating to “who” the surveys target, “when” they are administered, and “how” data are collected. These topics affect the validity and cross-country comparability of data. Despite the limitations discussed, surveys that gather information on child labor provide baseline information on children working in certain types of work, describe the social and demographic characteristics of children and their families, and explain causes that lead children to work.
1. Universe Selection
In statistics the “universe” refers to the population or group of individuals being studied. The two parameters that typically define the universe of in child labor surveys are the age range of respondents and the definition of “economic activity.” How a country chooses to define a particular universe shapes the outcome and cross-country comparability of a statistic. Not all countries or organizations use the same age range or set of activities and conditions to define child labor. When reporting on child labor statistics it is important to include age range used for children in the sample, the number of working children, and the total population of children for the same age range to get a fuller picture of the situation of working children in a particular country.
The age range used to specify the universe of working children in a given country often does not coincide with that country’s legal definition of child labor. In accordance with ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Employment, many countries’ legal standards classify working children under the age of 15 or 14 years as child laborers, while other countries consider individuals up to age of 21 who are employed in hazardous conditions to be child laborers.1984 Since work is legally prohibited below a certain age, most national labor force surveys and censuses do not even collect information on working children below the age of 15, while other governments place a lower age limit of five years on data collected.1985
The ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) child labor surveys usually defines the universe of children to be individuals between the ages of 5 and 17.1986 However, the ILO’s Bureau of Statistics (STAT) Economically Active Population, 1950- 2010 database reports on the labor force activity rates of children between the ages of 10 to 14.1987
2. Reference Period
The reference period relates to the associated timing of information asked of the respondent during a survey. Census and employment surveys collect information on labor force activity by asking respondents whether they have worked during a specified “reference period”. In collecting labor information, reference periods are generally classified in relation to short-term and long-term employment status. The short-term reference period typically measures “current work activity” during the past week (or last seven days), while the long-term reference period determines “usual work activity” over the last year (or last 12 months).1988 Because some child labor is seasonal, such as agriculture, it is important to conduct a survey during the time it coincides with activities associated with children’s work so that these activities are captured within the reference period.1989 Otherwise, statistics will produce underestimates on the number of working children.
3. Sampling and Non-Sampling Errors
In all household surveys, differences in the quality of data are attributed to both sampling and non-sampling errors, but because of the sensitivities surrounding child labor issues, surveys on working children are more subject to these types of errors.1990 Sampling error refers to errors resulting from sample frame selection, sample size, and the stratification of samples. Since child labor surveys usually derive their samples from the enumeration areas of census and labor force surveys, sampling areas may not exactly represent the localities of where child laborers may be found, especially if a majority of working children reside in remote rural areas. Non-sampling errors generally stem from survey design, the interpretation of questions by respondents, the capacity and willingness of respondents to provide the correct information, and the inability to contact sample cases. Non-sampling errors may impact the quality of child labor data because of the illegal nature of many children’s work. Parents may be hesitant to answer questions honestly, and children may not be able to provide accurate responses.
1970 Richard Anker, “The Economics of Child Labour: A Framework for Measurement,” International Labour Review, vol. 139 (2000): 257-80.
1972 See ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
1973 Source and Methods: Labour Statistics, vol. 10, Estimates and Projections of the Economically Active Population 1950-2010 (ILO: Geneva, 2000).
1974 Unpaid workers include family members engaged in the production of economic goods and services for their own and/or household consumption. Domestic work in an individual’s own household, such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for other family members, is not traditionally included in the definition of economically active persons.
1975 Persons considered to be unemployed include those currently looking for work and first-time job seekers.
1976 UNICEF, “Child Domestic Work,” Innocenti Digest (Florence, Italy: International Child Development Centre, 1999).
1977 International Labor Organization, Informal Sector: Who Are They? [online] (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/ employment/skills/informal/who.htm); cited March 30, 2001.
1980 International Labor Organization, 15th International Conference of Labor Statisticians, January 19-28, 1993, Geneva.
1982 Efforts are underway to capture through rapid assessments the worst forms of child labor by a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. For a fuller discussion of the rapid assessment methodology, refer to International Labor Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund [online], Investigating Child Labor: Guidelines for Rapid Assessment (http://www.ilo.org/ public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/guides/rapass.pdf).
1983 Some survey programs include questions on working children with the purpose of capturing information on child labor. The ILO-IPEC’s Statistical Information Monitoring Program on Child Labor (SIMPOC) is specifically designed to measure the extent and nature of child labor in a country, while UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) contain some questions related to the child labor in their surveys. Interagency efforts among these three organizations to standardize data collection efforts are under way. For more information, see “Understanding Children’s Work” at http://www.ucw-project.org/.
1984 International Labor Organization (ILO), Child Labour: Targeting the Intolerable, Geneva, 1996.
1985 ILO, Yearbook of Labour Statistics , Geneva, 2000.
1986 ILO, “Sampling Design for Household-Based Child Labour Survey” [online]; see http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/ simpoc/simpoc00/page3.htm#c3-2.
1987 ILO, Yearbook of Labour Statistics , Geneva, 2000, See Also World Development Indicators 2000.
1988 Reference periods may also vary by country.
1989 For example, if a survey were being conducted in October, and the reference period was for the previous six months, activities children may have worked in between the months of November from the previous year to April of the following year would not be included in the data.
1990 Differing survey processes, field interviewing styles, and quality control procedures influence both cross- country comparability and within-country quality of data.